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The Dragon and the Beast

Revelation 13:1-4
The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?' (NIVUK)

John's vision continues. The scene is the earth: the characters are the dragon and the beast, and the people who worshipped them. We have already discovered that the dragon is Satan (Adversary or Enemy) otherwise known as the devil (slanderer or accuser), who has been thrown out of heaven and now operates on earth (Revelation 12:7-9). The beast may be a powerful individual or global authority (Revelation 17:11), or a coalition of powers - depicted by ten crowned horns and seven heads marked with a name which mocks and defames Jesus Christ. The beast has 'dragon' characteristics (Revelation 12:3), is the same as the 'little horn' of Daniel 7:8 and is probably the 'man of lawlessness' of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, and the Antichrist of 1 John 2:18.

This demonically inspired Antichrist (an alternative to Christ) authority is seen coming out of the sea of political instability, like the four beasts of Daniel 7:2-7. Those beasts represented world empires of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The beast in our passage is a mixture of the animals of Daniel Ch 7, but more powerful. It is the embodiment of evil which will rule the earth. One of the heads of this beast has a near fatal wound but is now back in full force to fight against all that Jesus stands for. It is the alternative god who demands to be worshipped.

The success of the beast's oppressive deception is obvious, because the world (not including those faithful to Jesus) are in awe of it and see it as the solution to all the world's problems. There is no qualm about agreeing that the beast is right, and also worshipping Satan whose spiritual authority over this monstrous rule is obvious. The global population feel, falsely, that their safety is guaranteed by the beast, and so they commit themselves to serve under its authority.

This is a terrible picture of a future evil world domination which presents itself as supreme and unstoppable. The global force of evil masquerades as the world's 'saviour' (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Like most successful dictators, people are mesmerised by its power and submit to what they think will be the ultimate world order. When this beast arrives the world will be excited, but the church will come under extreme persecution (Revelation 13:10), until Jesus Christ comes to deal with the evil mess. Until then, what is the message for us today? Do not be surprised when the world appears to unite for the sake of peace, but coerces believers to accept values which God detests. In many little ways that is happening already as Jesus predicted (John 16:1-4). Many societies, including those which were once Christian, are establishing a social order which ensures that Jesus is not Lord, and God's Word is not the basis of their community. When that is your experience, hold firm to Jesus. There is no other real security or eternal hope (John 6:68).

Sovereign Lord. Thank You, that whatever local or global substitutes arise to usurp Your authority, You are still the Eternal God. Forgive me when I am frightened by a social order which excludes Jesus, and am tempted to conform to the majority view and deny my Lord. Please help me to understand the times I live in through the lens of Your Word so that I will be ready to stand firm for Christ and encourage others to do the same. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams